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(From The New York Times-Illustrated Magazine, June 20, 1897.)
The sailing of one of those great modern steamships-the liner-is an event to be seen, admired, and remembered. Within her capacious sides of steel the ingenuity of man has deposited the secret of eclipsing time and of annihilating space. A veritable floating city is she, whose populace is cosmopolitan and exemplifies in cabin and steerage, forecastle and bridge, the varied conditions of humanity; community, and government complete-a life unto itself. Again, she may be likened to a hotel, palatial in size and the magnificence of appointments, service, and cuisine, or to a mammoth storehouse burdened with the richest products of industry.
Albeit within and about activity, ceaseless and noisy, has reigned, the great fabric has lain aberth with functions dormant till the approach of sailing day. Then to the black breathing of towering funnels and the throbbing of turning engines she warms into a living thing, till every fibre thrills, the embodiment of strength and grace and speed-the ocean flier.
There is an animation among officers and crew as the time for casting off draws near that takes hold on the passengers, too, as they arrive, and upon the friends that gather to bid them godspeed. To those accustomed to the scenes that mark the sailing of a big ship there is a fascination not less potent than that which plays upon the emotions of the uninitiated. The scene is old, yet ever new, and even as the days increase which claim a place in the schedule of the transatlantic ferry and the ocean voyage would seem to lose its novelty, the spectacle becomes rather more highly colored and the occasion one of greater interest.
Within the memory of the closing generation travelers bound for points on the Connecticut shore of Long Island Sound embarked on sailing craft from East River piers, and their well-wishers were wont to congregate at the landing to say bon voyage, for the journey was beset with the uncertainties of wind and calm and the treacherous currents of Hell Gate.
Their sailings, though, were tame affairs, and in comparison sone might have looked for a notable demonstration when the fleet clippers of the Black Ball Line spread their wings for the ocean voyage-a month or more at seo[sic] in prospect. But passengers were few then, and one's friends not more numerous than now. Trips abroad, indeed, were almost a warrant for books of travel.
Then steam began its struggle with time; yet even as late as 1866, when the Scotia made her record of 8 days 2 hours and 48 minutes, the steam of ocean travel was small in volume and the competition of the lines had for its prize the contract for carrying the mails.
Consequent perhaps on fortunes made during the war, in part, and more largely on the general increase of material prosperity thereafter, passenger service began to be an object of competition and the bid for it has since been marked by the building of the "record breakers," while the number of lines and diversity of routes have been vastly augmented. Sailing day has come to mean almost every day, and at this season of the year each outgoing steamship is taxed to its utmost capacity. Yet, though European travel has become commonplace, the departure is attended with scenes more gala than ever; the larger the exodus of travelers the larger the crowd to see them off.
The principal sailing day is Saturday, and the procession of outward bound steamships dropping down the river and bay, through the Narrows, and out at the Hook commences on that day with the rise and ends with the set of the sun. Vessels of the Cunard, French, Anchor, Holland-America, Atlantic Transport, and Thingvalla Lines sail Saturday. North German Lloyd boats sail Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. The Hamburg-American boats sail on Thursday and on Saturday. The American, the Red Star, and the White Star Line boats sail Wednesday, which is the second in importance as sailing day.
It will be seen, therefore, that vessels of the regular lines operating weekly express services with Europe depart on four days of the week, and there are in addition lesser craft, some with passenger accommodations that in the old time would have been esteemed pretty good, that sail on these and other days as well.
The photographs here reproduced were taken at the time of sailing on recent trips of the American Line steamship Paris and the White Star Line steamship Teutonic. They cannot give the color of the scenes, and the pen can make but a lame attempt. Before casting off the lines we may go back over the days preceding to better comprehend what the sailing of one of these greyhounds of the ocean means.
The Paris had arrived from Southampton four days earlier-on Saturday. Passengers' baggage and mails landed, cargo must be discharged, a matter of perhaps fifteen hours with 150 men at the work. The engines stopped, the fires drawn, the boilers cooled, 300 men are set to work in the engine and boiler rooms. One hundred and eighty men are the regular crew of this oily and grimy region; the others are Italians, expert at the work, employed for the occasion, who go into the boilers in gangs by watches to scale the interior surfaces. This work of cleaning out the interior of the boilers lasts between two and three days. The engine-room crew has completely dismantled the engines. Parts have been separated, cleaned, and replaced. New parts where necessary are substituted, for there is never a trip when there is not at least one part, perhaps worn, that must give place to a new one.
Twenty-four hundred tons of coal must be got aboard to make the steam for a less than seven-day run, and the ship's coal passers do the loading with the aid of steam shovels from barges that come alongside. Clearfield coal is used for the eastward passage; Welsh coal for the return.
The forces of deck and cabin stewards, 160 strong, are at work with broom and brush and soap and water, and inside and out there is an overhauling as complete and nice as the best housewife knows how to manage with the approach of Spring.
When it is known that about 15,000 pieces of linen from this one ship must needs be laundered and aboard again ready for use in four days it will be understood why a special laundry is maintained in which forty men and women are engaged to handle the most improved washing and ironing machinery. And while all this is going on, the crew of the navigating department, sixty all told, is at work over the sides and aloft, painting, cleaning, and burnishing.
Four hundred men of the crew and 150 outsiders have worked days, and sometimes nights, aboardship. But this is not all. There are 1,500 tons' measurement of cargo space, and the longshoremen who have discharged the imports of the miscellaneous products of Europe begin to load the larger cargo of American produce that the vessel will take out. The fast steamers carry mostly provisions and perishable goods. It is a varied cargo, and a day and a half is taken in stowing it. Besides this, the steamer may carry perhaps 3,000 pieces of baggage and ten tons of mail. She may have from 300 to 350 first-cabin passengers, 200 second-cabin, and 300 steerage. The first-cabin passengers may carry forty cubic feet of baggage, and the second-cabin and steerage passengers are allowed twenty cubic feet each.
These passengers must have something to eat, it will be remembered, and the providing for them is attended to by the shore steward. For a seven-day boat there are at the outset full provisions for twelve days. There are besides provisions of a staple and non-perishable character for a month or more, to be available in case of accidental delay.
On reaching port the ship's steward calls for what he requires to replenish supplies, embracing from 700 to 1,000 requisitions, and the shore steward places the orders. These orders are more extensive than those of the largest hotels, since they provide for a week, while hotels may order daily. The same class of dealers who supply hotels also supply the steamships.
The expense complete of the trip of a vessel of the Paris class is not less than $50,000, and it may run up to $100,000, according to the number of passengers.
Sailing day finds everything ship-shape and Bristol fashion. Fires are up, smoke is pouring from the funnels, and the engines have been turned and tested. The blue peter, the sign of sailing, flies from the fore truck; at the main is the house flag, and from the mizzen flaunts the United States mail flag. The arrangement of flags may vary somewhat, and must with the number of masts a vessel has. The national flag flies always at the stern.
More than an hour before sailing time passengers commence to arrive. Carriages, wagons, and trucks drive hurriedly on to the pier. Occupants of private turnouts and livery carriages are deposited on the pier, and they set about directing the disposition of trunks, bags, rugs, steamer chairs, and all the impedimenta of ocean travel and foreign touring. There is a kindly adieu to family coachmen and a clambering up the gangway, where friends are gathered.
The fancy wagons of fashionable florists drive up laden with flowers. Some are elaborate pieces. They are carried into the main saloon, which becomes a bower. A little later these gems of floriculture may become a contribution to the sea. Flowers become hateful in their very fragrance to the unfortunate victims of mal de mer. For that reason they are never taken to staterooms. The thoughtful steward, however, saves many a cluster-a cluster of orchids, perhaps, that a hundred dollars would not pay for-from Neptune's grasp, and sparingly, from day to day, they decorate the dining tables.
Baggage meantime has been sorted. Some of it goes to the hatch gangways, forward and aft, to be whipped aboard for stowage in the holds, while the rest or such as it is requested shall be put into staterooms, is carried by porters and placed along the decks, to be taken within later, when companionways are clear of the crowds of passengers and friends and servants, who now begin to fill the saloons, decks, and passages.
It is a remarkable gathering. Narrow one's horizon to these bulwarks, look not too far aft nor too far forward, and the whole world might seem rich. Each group is a picture pleasant to look upon. There are pretty faces and handsome ones, fine figures and costumes that tempt the eye; men are smartly groomed and women exquisitely gowned. There is animation, even excitement, and a charming disregard for petty conventionalities. Not the opera, the ball, the Horse Show, can equal the scene presented, though many of the same faces are here.
It is more than a society gathering. There is the variety in race that the Diplomatic Corps gives to social functions at a capital, and the diplomats and statesmen are here, too; both audience and stage of theatre,[sic] opera house, and music hall are represented, and so of pulpit and congregation, professor's chair and classroom, bench and bar, and medicine; there are financiers and the princes of commerce, and, too, the storekeeper from the interior.
The fortunate of all the walks of life from the world over and all the States and cities are come together and are seen without the constraints of public occasion, delightfully free from the stiffness and mannerisms that may mark the gatherings of fashion. There is gayety[sic] and the seriousness of regret at separation. There are parents and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, fondling, kissing, parting-deigning to display the homelier emotions. There is the gallant and the coquette, whose arched eyes do no end of talking.
The ensemble is brilliant and impressive; the air is filled with perfume and the music of eager voices. If there is tawdryness, boldness, or aught commonplace, it is lost in the setting.
One might go aft, though, where the steerage holds its poor voyagers, and find much to offend the eye, much also to appeal to the heart. Homely clad and illy, sallow-faced men hang over the rails. Wan-faced mothers sit about the hatch combings nursing puny babes. The New World has offered to many of them nothing better than the Old, and fewer friends. And there are affectionate partings there, too.
Suddenly there is the hoarse blast of a steamer's whistle and a bell is rung. That is the "All ashore!"
There is a renewal of parting embraces, final reminders and injunctions, a converging of crowds near the main companionway; the grand stairway is massed.
More than half the assemblage is of friends, not voyagers. You can pick them out; the passengers are clothed for travel, their friends are dressed for the street. A steady stream makes down the gangway to the pier, and lest some belated one should fail to get ashore the stewards are pounding their gongs in all parts of the ship. There generally is such a one, however, as will presently appear.
All remaining aboard go to the decks. They line the rails next the pier and gaze closely to locate familiar faces in the crowds which cluster about the shed gangways. They wave hats and handkerchiefs; the crowds below wave theirs.
Then there is a rumble of wheels from the street and a steam of foaming horses comes dashing up the pier. "Clear the way, there!" the stevedore shouts.
The order is unnecessary. The crowd has parted rather than be mowed down. "The mails," some one says, and others murmur importantly "The United States mails," as the big horses come to a standstill, almost on their haunches, to meet the weight of the heavy mail wagon.
It stops close to the main cabin gangway. Fifty porters form a line behind it. A bag is thrown upon the shoulders of the first, and as fast as another can step into the place of the preceding one a bag is flung upon his back, and flying he goes up the gangway. Not more than one minute is taken in transferring the entire load of supplementary mails from truck to steamer.
Gangway ladders are now lowered, hawsers are eased off, there is a prolonged blast of the whistle, the crowds on deck and pier go into an uproar, and as the giant propellers churn the waters the steamship gathers sternway and glides out from her berth. The lines are played out forward at first, then thrown over, while to the clinking tunes of windlass and winch the after lines are taken in or slackened, as may be, to guide till the steamer is clear. The steward's band plays "America," which will be called "God Save the Queen" when they reach the other side, and pandemonium reigns for a time.
Every one on the pier has rushed to the outer uncovered end. All strive for points of vantage. Daintily clad mademoiselles climb on to besmeared bales of freight, old ladies are seen risking their limbs on the stability of rolling barrels. There is a garden of bobbing millinery flowers, here a patch of violets and there of roses, and here and there and almost everywhere combinations of the fashionable colors, enlivened with the fluttering bits of white linen in tossing, waving hands. The effect is kaleidoscopic.
The steamer, too, presents a gorgeous dress. Her decks are superimposed terraces of color and life. The whole length of her promenade deck is bright with the smiling faces of the saloon passengers.
Two puffing tugs have run their hemp-buffered noses against the steamship's side, forward, to swing her bow down stream. A few minutes only the big racer, which has now reached mid-channel, submits to this assistance from the important little fellows, and then, as her long hull is righted to the stream, she commences to move ahead.
It may be noticed though that she does not increase her speed and that one of the tugs has tied alongside amidship. Fifteen minutes may be lost in the pending operation, whatever it is, and it generally turns out to be the rescue from involuntary voyaging of a belated female who, turned around between decks, has failed to get ashore. The accommodation ladder has been lowered from the steamer, the woman is placed on the tug, she is brought back to the pier, and she is landed amid the plaudits of the crowd and her own confusion. She has cost more time than the machinery of Government had saved to expedite the mails, and she manages to do it on nearly every outgoing steamer.
When the crowd returns its attention to the departing steamship she is driving down the bay like a thoroughbred to its course, and her course is the broad Atlantic, her wake a band that binds the continents.
John T. Maginnis.Return to The Fleets
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